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Your Link to the Past

Your Link to the Past

Holman Waitt and the Cattle Business

Interview with Holman Waitt

October 6, 1977
Sioux City, Iowa

Conducted by:
Leah Hartman
Siouxland Oral History Program
Sioux City Public Museum
Sioux City, Iowa

Interview with Holman E. Waitt
Date of Interview: October 6,1977
Interviewer: Leah Hartman
Transcriber: Marie Mayrose
Begin Tape 1, Side 1

LH: This is an interview with Mr. Holman Waitt, October 6, 1977 at the Waitt home, 1017 28th Street, Sioux City. I am Leah Hartman. 

LH: Could you tell me about your family and describe...?

My mother originated from Connecticut, and the family moved to Sergeant's Bluffs. My Grandfather ran a hotel there in Sergeant's Bluffs. Father was making guns when the war was over in the early days, when he ran away from home and came to Sergeant's Bluffs. That's where they met father. She used to write her people back in Connecticut how the Indians would come up and look in the window. She'd write back and tell her people back in Connecticut how they liked the Indians. Father was making guns when the war was over, and came to Council Bluffs, and came to Sergeant's Bluffs. That's where he stayed until he went over to help build the railroad around Wisner, Nebraska and from there he went to Wakefield.

This is Grandfather Waitt's picture on his horse.

Waitt: I was born in Wakefield, Nebraska in 1887.

LH: What was the month and the day?

Waitt: July 2, 1887. How we happened to move from Wakefield to Sioux City. Father would come over to the stockyards which is located up where the horse barns are now and would drive cattle. When he got home he would not have any cattle, but he had a lot of machinery. Mother said, "If you're gonna do that kind of business, we'll pick up and move to Sioux City". And that's what we did and my father came to Sioux City to work for W. C. Hudson and Company, who was in the Commission business in the early days. The flood of 1892 washed all the stockyards out that was up there.

LH: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Waitt: Well, Jessie, Bert, Jeff; had three brothers and eight sisters.

LH: Could you describe what your father and mother looked like?

Waitt: Mother was a very little woman but father was a big, tall, rawboned Englishman. And he always wore great big hats and a long moustache. Yes, that's it. That's right.

LH: That's a picture of your father.

Waitt: That's a picture of my father. That was taken in front of the Exchange Building of Sioux City, in later dates. He would come out and throw his coat up over that horse's shoulders and the horse would never move until he got on. And he had a man who used to work for him, and the minute that he would come out, then the horse-.Waitt: -.would go all to pieces - just start raring, and father told him never to bother about getting near the horse. That was a picture taken, oh, I imagine - I'm just trying to think that could have been taken about 1913 or 14.

LH: Could you tell me of your earliest memories?

Waitt: I went to work for the stockyards company in 1903, and I and two Hawley boys used to walk to work every morning, when we found out the elevated railroad, which started out at Fourth and Jones, went right by the Cudahy chutes. So we started riding the elevated road and got off and come across the Cudahy chutes to the stockyards. I worked from then till about 1905, and I learned that you had to have an education, just before Christmas. And I went to Mr. Donnelly and told him I was going to quit and go back to school, which he thought was a good idea.

LH: What schools did you attend?

Waitt: I started school at the Longfellow School in Morningside, and then we moved into Sioux City and I attended the Bancroft School. Then is when I got a paper route.

How old were you when you were a paper boy?

Waitt: Well, let's see, about 12, 13 years old. I got a picture around here someplace of me on a mule, but I don't know what became of that.

LH: Then, did you go to high school? To Sioux City?

Waitt: Yes, as long as I say, you have to have an education, a gentleman by the name of Doc Cody and I attended summer school with Mrs. True all that summer. He and I went to high school that fall and took the examinations for both the 7th and 8th Grades, Doc Cody and I, and passed them. Then I went to work for The Sioux City Tribune, wrapping bundles and running bundles from The Tribune down to the train and put them on the train.

LH: Let's see, there are so many things that I wanted to ask you of the trains. What could you tell me about the number of trains or what the trains looked like?

Waitt: The trains are not any different. The depots, one depot was at 2nd and Nebraska, that's the old Northwestern Depot, and the other was the Milwaukee Depot which has just been moved from there out to North Sioux City.

LH: I want to go back to that elevated railroad, so few people could tell me about that.

Well, that was built after we came to Sioux City and while we lived on top of the hill there. I used to herd sheep all over the hills down there by the monument. I would drive the sheep down to the monument. There was a young lady who used to live down there, would help me, then we'd go swimming. The last time that I saw her we were out there to Hoaks, for dinner, remember?

Elaine: Who was that, now?

Waitt: Miss Vent. And we were out to Hoaks for dinner that night- When they lived on.... That's the last time I saw her. She looked at Mrs. Hoak and she said, "That looks like a man I used to herd sheep with."

LH: Yes, well, now let's see we're coming here - We were talking about the railroads, we talked about the schools, could you tell me the memories of the Court Street Gang? Were you a member of the Court Street Gang?

Waitt: Not very long. Theodore, her husband, was a member of the Court Street Gang. Lester Berger got a hold of me one day and wanted me to go down to the Court Street Gang with him.

LH: Do you recall some disasters, such as the fires and floods?

Waitt: Well, as I say, I stood up on the hill in the flood of 1892, as a youngster and watched the houses go down the river with chickens and other things off the top of them, you know. And there's a fellow, well he's not been dead too long, standing there with me in 1892. Then back in the flood of 1953 I stood up at the same place with this gentleman, who passed away, and we watched the same scenes in '53 that we saw in '92.

LH: That's unusual. How about the Pelletier fire? You were awfully young then, but could you remember some of that?

Waitt: I was working for Armour and Company, and I started home when the Pelletier fire at 4th and Jackson (happened). I came home that night and went to get my clothes - my younger brother had all my clothes on and was gone out --I was just starting to go with Mrs. Waitt at that time, 1905.

LH: The Ruff fire, of course, you remembered that.

Waitt:Well, the Ruff fire, I was working back here in the garden when we heard about that, and we looked for her husband. He was a youngster then. He went down to see the Ruff fire. And that father Palmer had just gotten out of that store--that's her father--when that thing happened.

LH: There are some other places that you'd like to mention. We talked about the Sawyer's Hill and that would be so interesting.

Waitt: Well, Sawyer's Hill was later called Waitt's Hill.

LH: That was your home.

Waitt: That's when we moved from Wakefield and moved up on top of the hill.. At that time they just started that bridge across the river there, -[excerpt ended]
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